Title: Daughters: A Story of Five Generations
Author: Bharti Ray
Translator: Madhuchanda Karlekar
Publisher: Penguin India
PP: 336 pages
Price: Rs. 399
I do not read bad books. I do not think it is fair to the reader to do so, and hence the books I pick/choose to read turn out to be the very best, like the one I have just finished reading, “Daughters: A Story of Five Generations” by Bharti Ray. I have always believed that men and women are equal and therefore when a woman tries to make me get off my seat in a bus that is not reserved for her, I do not get up. I believe that if we are equal, then maybe even she should experience what it feels like to stand in a crowded bus. Not that my perception or point of view has changed after reading this book, it has definitely become broader to accommodate these incidents and situations. Why so you may ask? Let me tell you why and with that start the review.
Daughters, as the title, suggests chronicles the lives of five generations of women in the author’s household. We witness the story spanning a hundred years – from the late nineteenth-century to the early years of the twenty-first century. What I loved is how the author, talks about her household, the women in the household, their likes and dislikes, their lives, and connects them all to the larger framework of Indian Social History. It’s almost like reading two parallel storylines, which I am not complaining about at all, as I loved it.
The book speaks of six women in all – starting with hierarchical importance – Sundar-Ma, the great-grandmother, married at a tender age of twelve and yet wanting to live life on her own terms. She was the character closest to my heart while reading the book. Ushabala, the author’s grandmother on the other hand was the proud wife of a college lecturer and a home-maker. I found her very endearing – wanting to give it all to her daughter, the author’s mother Kalyani and not wanting anything for herself. Kalyani was the first woman graduate in the family and yet she gave up her career to sit at home and take care of her family and yet did not lose her feistiness, and her passion for adventure and travelling.
While reading her portions, I was almost reminded of my mother at all times, who is also a stay-at-home-mom. Most Indian Mothers are of that mould – sit at home and take care of what belongs to you or what comes to you, whichever happens first, and thankfully that is now changing, or is it really? Well, it is to some extent.
Towards the end of the book, we get to meet the author – who had her own set of achievements, that of being a lecturer, a pro-vice-chancellor to a member of the Rajya Sabha. And last but not the last we meet the author’s daughters – Khuku and Tista, again very strong and different personalities, when compared to the other women.
The thread that ran through the entire book, from my perspective was that of daughters and mothers – the bond shared and sometimes the differences that emerge as strengths. I enjoyed reading this book a lot. For one, it made me think at all times about women in India and women in the rest of the world. Of the differences and the similarities. Of what is given and what is denied. All in all, this is one book that is not to be missed. You have to read it and find out what it is all about, in order to truly cherish the moments, sentiment and thoughts.